UN Global Compact and the SDGs
We have supported the UN Global Compact principles of sustainability since 2015 and, during 2019 we have mapped our strategy against the SDGs during the course of this year and will continue to integrate them into our processes.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the seventeen SDGs, which are an urgent call for action by all countries, developed and developing, in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth, all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The UK is a signatory to these goals. The UK Government has developed its own agenda for delivering these goals and companies are encouraged to adopt this framework.
Historically we have identified our key sustainability risks and opportunities and have summarised them as follows:
Environment: the re-use and careful management of existing buildings is inherently sustainable. In addition, reducing the running costs of the buildings and improving their operational efficiencies is essential to attract tenants, as well as meet future regulatory requirements.
Community: engaging with community groups and charities to ensure we integrate with our community throughout 100% of our portfolio.
Stakeholders: engaging with our tenants, investors and principal advisors ensures that we are aware of their expectations and can respond accordingly. In particular, we work with tenants to identify ways in which they can use our buildings more efficiently and operate in a more sustainable manner.
Working closely with our suppliers enables us to control our potentially most significant impacts and facilitate better standards of service through our supply chain.
Employees: investing in the welfare and development of our employees ensures high standards of performance and continuing low turnover of employees. In 2016 we decided we wanted to formalise a materiality assessment for the business using the following stepped approach:
- External review – a review of external influence, views of investors, benchmarking indices, activities of our peers and other companies to provide the basis for identifying the issues that are material to the business now and in the future.
- Internal review – the findings from the above reviewed internally by the Sustainability Committee and then an internal workshop to establish the relative importance of the issues to our business balanced with the perceived importance to stakeholders.
The result is a materiality matrix confirming our priority issues (see below). Out of 19 possible environmental and 19 possible social issues the top 10 issues were identified as: Community, central London air pollution, living wage, health & safety both internally and externally, infrastructure, greenhouse gas emissions, human rights, waste, material use and biodiversity. The Sustainability Committee reviewed these in 2019 and agreed they remain valid. Our broad strategic goals are still valid and will continue to form the framework of our approach. We will continue to focus in the forthcoming year to address these issues as a priority.
We encompass the core strands of sustainability – environment, social and economic performance within a bespoke management system which includes the basic elements of a policy, identification of risks and opportunities, measurable objectives and targets, an audit programme and reporting.
Our Sustainability Committee, chaired by the Chief Executive, meets quarterly and is responsible for setting the sustainability policy and strategy across the Group. The Committee is advised by an external consultancy, which provides independent review and analysis of our actions and policies. This information is reported to the Executive Committee and the Board. The lines of communication are illustrated below.
Managing the Supply Chain
As a property investor, our most significant impacts could be considered to occur through our supply chain. This includes the management of our portfolio on a daily basis and the refurbishment of new properties. If not responsibly managed, we could inadvertently contribute to significant environmental impacts, through factors such as the use of energy at these sites, waste produced and materials used.
We employ agents to manage the portfolio and project managers to oversee the refurbishment activities. The company has systems set up in order to integrate environment social and governance factors into the procurement process of new services and into the ongoing work of our long-term contractors and sub-contractors as set out below. Key information relating to sustainability requirements is contained within our Environment, Social and Governance Policy and our Supplier Code of Conduct and is included within contractual information throughout the supply chain.
Our Estate Management Services Specification includes clauses requiring the contractor to act in accordance with our environmental and sustainability policies and to ensure all contactors, consultants and advisors engaged on the portfolio are aware of and observe the policies.